5 more projects exempted from growth freeze

County vows an appeal of Circuit Court ruling

Carroll County

May 06, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Three more developers have gained temporary relief from Carroll County's freeze on residential development, one month before the moratorium is set to expire.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway ordered the county yesterday to resume processing five residential projects, totaling 38 lots, that have not been allowed to move forward since the county commissioners implemented the freeze in June.

The latest blow to the county's growth-control measure brings to seven the number of developers who have been granted injunctions blocking the county from enforcing the freeze.

Nevertheless, county officials remain steadfast and plan to appeal Galloway's latest rulings to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, as they have with previous orders. One case is pending before the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

"The county remains confident in its position on the deferral and its enactment, and continues to pursue all legal remedies available," said County Attorney Kim Millender.

At a hearing in March, representatives of Thomas A. Matthews, Curtis Lee Wasmer and Altieri Enterprises, whose cases were consolidated, told Galloway that the freeze was hurting their five projects.

Altieri's project would put 10 houses near Sykesville; Matthews' three projects would add seven houses near Finksburg, seven near New Windsor and four outside Westminster; and Wasmer's project would put 10 homes near Westminster.

In each case, the developers had received certificates from the county saying their proposed projects would not strain schools, roads, and water and sewer capacity, and could move forward.

In nearly identical decisions, Galloway wrote that the certificates could be considered contracts and that developers who hold the documents could reasonably assume the county broke its promise by imposing the freeze.

The county has argued that the certificates offer timelines for the projects, not guarantees that they will move forward.

"The Circuit Court feels comfortable once again that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail ... based on the underlying issue," said Westminster land-use lawyer David Bowersox, who represented the three developers. "It's a reason for optimism for the developers and property owners."

Bowersox has filed requests for summary judgments on the five projects to invalidate the growth freeze. That request is pending.

The freeze interrupted about 90 projects - totaling 1,700 lots - in various stages of the review process. It also halted any new subdivision plans that were subject to the county's adequate public facilities law, which was designed to make sure new development would not overtax schools, roads and infrastructure.

The commissioners imposed the freeze to give county planners time to revamp the law and other growth-related ordinances. The freeze expires June 5.

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